Lakhota is one dialect of a language widely spoken in
the northern plains. It is not easy to find a universally
acceptable designation for this language, given the fact
that there is no unambiguous native name for it.
Nineteenth and early twentieth-century scholars
(Stephen R. Riggs, Franz Boas) used the term Dakota
both for the language and for its eastern dialect. This is
obviously awkward and liable to confusion. Here the
designation Sioux is used for the language, reserving
Dakota for the dialect. Many speakers of the language
dislike the term Sioux because of its foreign origin (cp.
Goddard 1984), its use primarily by non-Indians, and
because some do not recognize that all the dialects rep-
resent the same language.
The Sioux language is the first or second language of
about 10,000-12,000 people in the northern plains and
contiguous areas of the United States and the Canadian
prairie provinces. Some speakers of the language are to
be found in other places in both countries as well, such
as Los Angeles and Toronto. This is one of the largest
surviving native language communities in North
Lakhota (Teton Sioux) is one of five closely related
dialects. Parks (1990), based on extensive surveys of
all the Sioux-speaking reservations and reserves in the
late 1970s, identifies these as Santee-Sisseton, Teton,
Yankton- Yanktonai, Assiniboine, and Stoney. The
easternmost of these is Santee-Sisseton. Nineteenth-
century scholars, following native usage, referred to
this dialect as Dakota. The westernmost of the dialects,
Tetouf is designated by its native name, Lakhota or
Lakota. Speakers of the Assiniboine and Stoney
dialects call their language Nakoda. The remaining
dialect, Yankton- Yanktonai, also located geographi-
cally between the Santee-Sisseton and Teton dialects,
shows affinities with both Dakota and Nakoda,
although speakers call their language Dakota.
Each of these dialects has reservation- or reserve-
based subdialects, some quite different from the others.
The subdialects of Teton Sioux oppose the southwest
reservations (Pine Ridge and Rosebud) to those on the
Missouri River (Cheyenne River, Lower Brule,
Standing Rock). The populations on these reservations
reflect earlier band divisions among the Teton Sioux,
so the present linguistic differences quite likely reflect
differences older than the reservation period, which
dates only from the last third of the nineteenth century.
The Sioux language, in one or another of its dialects,
but chiefly Dakota, has been written for over 150 years
by missionaries, anthropologists, educators, and native
speakers, using a variety of writing systems, all based
on the Roman alphabet. Not surprisingly, there exists a
sizable corpus of Sioux writings (see de Reuse 1987,
1990), some favoring a broad rendering of the sounds
of the language, others a fairly narrow rendering. In
most cases there is no indication with or in the docu-
ment of the intended degree of phonological exacti-
tude, although most are more broad than narrow.
Rood, David S. and Allan R. Taylor. 1996. Sketch of Lakhota, a Siouan
Language. In: Goddard, Ives (ed.) Handbook of North American Indians
Vol 17: Languages. Washington: Smithsonian Institution.